Save our NHS, photo Paul Mattsson, photo Paul Mattsson

Save our NHS, photo Paul Mattsson, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

‘William Malcolm’, NHS nurse

As thousands of NHS workers across the country checked their payslips in July it was a huge disappointment to see that the promised backdated 3% pay rise was a fantasy for those staff not already at the top of their pay band.

The deal, which was heralded by all the health unions (apart from the GMB) as a major step forward and a smashing of the 1% cap, in reality for many staff has meant a pitiful 1.5% pay rise – with the extra to be realised only if they hit their increment.

The anger from NHS staff has been huge. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary has issued a sensational apology to RCN members admitting that the pay deal had been mis-sold to them. Within the RCN, grassroots campaigners have gained the signatures needed to trigger an emergency general meeting on the pay deal.

From the meeting there is potential for a vote of no confidence, with anger growing as more details emerge. There are calls for talks to reopen.

Health union Unison, however, released a statement that, in reality, blamed members for not understanding the pay deal, despite the complicated wording and disgraceful publicity proclaiming rises of up to 29%. Throughout the pay dispute, grassroots activists were told that the new deal was a smashing of the pay cap.

In my hospital, senior matrons had ‘worked out’ the extra pay staff should have expected in their pay packet. Some nurses not at the top of their band were told to expect back pay of £300 plus, only to realise they have barely bettered the previous 1% we’ve suffered for years.

Trust in the union leaderships is at an all-time low. Following this revelation there have been countless nurses ripping up their lifetime union memberships in complete anger at the role played by the leaders. The unions didn’t engage with members through the consultation period with turnouts of 30% and 27% in Unison and Unite the Union respectively.

The unions should give a lead to NHS staff and reopen the talks to pressure this weak Tory government into real pay rises for hard working staff.

The prospect of a new generation of NHS staff thrust into action by this debacle could signify a new layer of activists who can dislodge the right wing leaderships of the main health unions and offer a genuine fighting lead on pay and the wider issues facing our NHS.